They say those born after 1980 (give or take a couple of years) are destined to have as many as seven careers in their lifetime. Really? Seven careers? This seems like a large number to me and calls into question the definition of the term, “career”.
When I was 25 and finishing up my Masters, I had a talk with my mom after my first day interning at JPMorgan Chase’s outplacement operation. “I’m so psyched to be launching my second career!” I exclaimed. To which my mom replied, “Your second career? What was your first career?!”
I was deflated, but mom was right. I hadn’t had a career in the years leading up to grad school…what I’d completed was at best a string of tangentially related jobs. And I see this becoming the case for many of us: We’re no longer having careers. We’re having one job, then another and then another. That’s OK in practice (i.e., you can still buy a house, save money, retire and so on), but if you want to build a career, you need to strategically guide the trajectory of your jobs held, choosing opportunities that provide a) continuity (i.e., you should be able to explain to a recruiter why your resume looks the way it does); and b) the opportunity to take on more responsibility, learn more and earn more money.
How do you know if you’ve had a career or a collection of jobs? Consider the following questions:
- If presented the opportunity to do so, could you provide a list of best practices for a new company aiming to specialize in your area?
- Would a professional association in your current industry consider tapping into your expertise? Could you add real value?
- Would you feel comfortable mentoring someone in your industry?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, there’s a good chance you have a career going.
In today’s job market, your career must be master-minded by you, the employee; it is not employer-driven. If your resume, cover letter, or elevator pitch includes the phrase “Seeking a career in…,” remove it (note: the objective statement on your resume is a job objective; not a career objective). Asking an employer for a career is asking for something most employers are not looking to give. The recruiter reading your resume has a job to do: fill a job vacancy; not find a “company man”. In a job market characterized by cost-cutting, global talent pools and high levels of unemployment, most employers simply don’t care whether or not you build a career inside their walls. It’s up to you to plan and execute your own career…assuming you want one.